Could Columbus Actually be Polish King Władysław III’s Son?
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That is what Manuel Rosa, a Portuguese historian who has spent 20 years researching the life of Columbus, suggests in his third book on the topic – “Colon. La Historia Nunca Contada” (Columbus: The Untold Story) – published in 2010. According to Rosa, King Władysław III, who was supposedly slain in the Battle of Varna in 1444, actually survived the battle, fled to live in exile on the island of Madeira where he was known as “Henry the German” and married a Portuguese noblewoman. Columbus was their son, and his true origins would have been hidden to protect the identity of his father. His royal origins would also explain how Columbus was able to himself marry Filipa Moniz Perestrelo, the daughter of a Portuguese noble, governor of Madeira, at a time when it was uncommon for nobility to marry outside their class. Intriguing theory but refuted by the eminent American historian Samuel Eliot Morison who believes that this is “no great mystery” in the fact that Columbus could marry Filipa Perestrelo. She was “already about 25 years old,” her mother was a widow “with slender means,” and “was glad enough to have no more convent bills to pay, and a son-in-law […] who asked for no dowry.” However, Rosa also mentions other evidence supporting his Polish origin theory, including the similarity of Columbus’s coat of arms with that of Władysław III, a painting of Columbus housed in the Alcazar in Seville in which a crown is hidden on his sleeve, and Columbus “reddish-hair, fair skin, and blue eyes” physical traits commonly found in Poland. For more on this theory, read the Telegraph article “Christopher Columbus was son of Polish king“.
Indeed the origins of Christopher Columbus, the discoverer, and explorer of the Americas, have been a subject of speculation for some time, but most historians still believe he was the son of Domenico Colombo, a wool weaver from Genoa, Italy, and later lived in Savona. Others have claimed however that he was of Catalan, Greek, or Portuguese origin, or even a Spanish Jew.
The Wikipedia page “Origin theories of Christopher Columbus” is a very well-referenced article that goes into extensive details of the various theories about where Christopher Columbus was born.
To summarize the article, the historians who believe he was from Genoa, Italy, mention several notarial acts that establish the Genoese origin of Columbus and confirm that the Genoese Christopher Columbus is indeed the same person as Cristóbal Colón, Admiral of the Ocean Sea, living in Spain:
- The conviction of Domenico Colombo and his son Christopher, dated 22 September 1470, for a debt toward a certain Girolamo del Porto. In his will, Admiral Christopher Columbus remembers this old debt.
- The act drawn in Genoa on 25 August 1479 by a notary, Girolamo Ventimiglia. Known as the Assereto document, after the scholar who found it in the State Archives in Genoa in 1904, it involves a lawsuit over a sugar transaction on the Portuguese Atlantic island of Madeira. In this act, Columbus swears he is 27 years old, a citizen of Genoa, a Portuguese resident, representing Genoese merchants in Madeira. This is seen as the proof he relocated to Madeira, Portugal, and is seen as an authentic document due to the fact that, in 1904, acceptable facsimiles were impossible to do.
- An act dated 11 October 1496 which says: Giovanni Colombo of Quinto, Matteo Colombo, and Amighetto Colombo, brothers, acknowledge that Giovanni must go to Spain to see Christopher Columbus, Admiral of the King of Spain, and that any expenses that said Giovanni must occur during this trip must be paid by all three brothers, and that they all agree.
- A fourth notarial act, drawn in Savona on 8 April 1500, where a certain Sebastiano Cuneo, requests that Christopher and Giacomo (called Diego), the sons and heirs of Domenico Colombo, be sentenced to pay the price for two lands located in Legine. This document confirms Christoforo and Diego’s absence from the Republic of Genoa.
- A fifth notarial act, drawn in Savona on 26 January 1501, is even more explicit. A group of Genoese citizens, under oath, say that Christopher, Bartholomew, and Giacomo Columbus, sons and heirs of Domenico, have for a long time been absent from the city and the jurisdiction of Savona, and that they reside in the area of Spain.
The Wikipedia article also points to the fact that several ambassadors had acknowledged the origin of Christopher Columbus when he discovered America:
- In 1498, Pedro de Ayala, the Spanish ambassador to the English court, mentioned John Cabot, “the discoverer, another Genoese, like Columbus”,
- In April 1501, Nicolò Oderico, ambassador of the Genoese Republic, calls the explorer “our fellow citizen”,
- In 1501, Angelo Trevisan, a diplomat from Venice (a rival city of Genoa) calls Columbus “Genoese” and so does another Venice diplomat, Gasparo Contarini, in 1525.
The Wikipedia article finally explains other theories at length:
- In 2008, Charles J. Merrill, a Doctor in medieval literature and associate professor of foreign languages published a book titled: “Colom of Catalonia: Origins of Christopher Columbus Revealed“, where he claims that Columbus was Catalan. According to Merrill, Columbus’s handwriting and phonetic mistakes in Castilian are “most likely” those of a Catalan. He would be the illegitimate son of a prominent Catalan seafaring family, and not the Genoese Cristoforo Colombo, a “modest wool carder and cheese merchant with no maritime training and whose age does not match the one of Columbus“.
- In 1943, Seraphim G. Canoutas, a Greek-American lawyer and independent scholar, suggested that Columbus was Greek. According to Canoutas, Dishypatos, scion of an ancient Byzantine noble family, and Columbus were noble kinsmen and longtime sailing companions where they were both young, and accepting such fact helps to reconcile the accepted account of Columbus’s early life as a wool-worker’s son with his later life as a nobleman and Admiral.
- Other researchers have claimed Columbus was a Spanish Jew, concealing his Judaism to avoid persecution.
No question that Christopher Columbus’ origins seem to highlight the passions. Where do YOU believe Christopher Columbus was actually born? Which of these theories would you favor?